Highlights: Luka Doncic | Mavericks vs. Bucks
Luka Doncic posts 18 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds in Dallas' loss to Milwaukee.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing spectacular stat lines emerge out of Mavericks games this season, and while everyone is allowed to set their own bar for what qualifies as impressive, there’s no arguing against powers of 10. Luka Doncic continued romping through his rookie season and this time achieved a bit of history we can all agree with, when he became the second teenager in NBA history to record a triple-double.
Doncic compiled 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in 33 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks. At 19 years and 327 days old, only Markelle Fultz (19 years, 317 days) was younger at the time he messed around and got a triple-double. Interestingly enough, Fultz also achieved the feat against the Bucks. (And Lonzo Ball, the third-youngest player ever to go 10-10-10 or better, did it against Milwaukee as well.) After a couple near-misses — including 21-9-10, 7-11-9, and 29-12-8 — Doncic finally made his mark.
To add to the significance, Monday’s was the first game Dallas had played all season which started at a decent hour in Doncic’s native Slovenia. Fans across the Atlantic, even as far west as Spain, where he dominated the ACB and EuroLeague last season en route to two championships, are routinely required to stay up until sunrise in order to watch him play. But the seven-hour time difference was hardly an inconvenience on Monday, when a 1 p.m. tipoff in Milwaukee made for juicy 8 p.m. primetime TV in Ljubljana. On the same day he faced off against Giannis Antetokounmpo — the best European player going right now — for the first time, Doncic put on a show for his entire home continent.
Triple-doubles are impressive, but if you ask Doncic, victories are better. “I played bad, for sure,” he said. “I got a triple-double, but I would prefer a win.” He expects better than 6-of-17 shooting, and the loss was No. 4 in a row for Dallas, who now trails eighth-place Utah by six in the win column.
Help is on the way, though, in the form of Dennis Smith Jr., who’s missed the last six games with a sore back and illness. His return to the lineup will add another dimension of playmaking to the equation, an area in which the Mavs have been lacking without him and especially since J.J. Barea suffered a ruptured Achilles on Jan. 11 in Minnesota.
Much has been made of the relationship between the two young Mavericks, who were drafted in two consecutive lotteries and already have a few awards between them. They get along on and off the floor, but this is a learning experience for everyone. Doncic is farther along than many of us had ever hoped, but don’t let his immediate success cloud your judgment of Smith, whose six-point improvement from beyond the arc (31.3 percent as a rookie to 37.5 percent this season) even despite playing with a bum wrist for a week or so is evidence enough that he’s growing as a player. Smith’s effective field goal percentage is north of 50 percent, he’s shooting a higher volume of free throws, and his defense has come a long way after just one summer’s training.
History does have a way of repeating itself. We’re just a little more than one year removed from Smith becoming the third-youngest ever to record a triple-double, when he did so on Dec. 29, 2017 in a win at New Orleans. Fultz and Doncic have since passed him, but Smith is just one of five players ever to put up a 10-10-10 at 20 years, 34 days old or younger. (The only name on that list which hasn’t been mentioned so far is LeBron James, who’s now teammates with Ball.)
GAME RECAP: Mavericks 128, Pelicans 120
Dennis Smith Jr. notches a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists as the Mavericks get the win over the Pelicans, 128-120.
Two of the five youngest players to ever have a triple-double in a game are on the same team, and the older of the two just turned 21 two months ago. No matter what you think of stat lists, or even of the relative significance (or lack thereof) of numbers ending in zero, that’s a stat worth mentioning, especially ahead of Smith’s Tuesday return.
What does it mean? That’s up to you. It’s noteworthy if nothing else, though given the events of the last week or so it feels like there’s a little more meaning behind this coincidence than the mere fact that it’s true. Impressive young talents tend to do impressive things. We’ve seen what Smith and Doncic can do without each other, and it is quite literally historic, albeit to different degrees. On Tuesday, for the first time in what feels like ages, we will see what they can do together. Hopefully the results are as fruitful.